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Because A Great Business Deserves A Great Site

Via DoVoCo – Interactive and Social Media Marketing

Home Page Before Website Makeover

Earthwarm Geothermal's website before it's makeover.

Mark Leigh is a great guy. As owner of Earthwarm Geothermal, he’s everything you would want a contractor and builder to be. He works hard, he takes pride in his work, uses superior matierials, and does the job right.

But you couldn’t tell by his website. To the right is a picture of his home page when I stumbled across it.  As good as Earthwarm’s work is, the website gives a different impression.

A Website is the face of a company. A company’s quality work has to be clearly reflected in what it presents to potential customers because in the digital world, a potential customer will decide to stay or move on in just seconds. Right or wrong, the sum of your work has to be communicated in just seconds if you want website visitors to turn into satisfied customers.

Being good doesn’t mean being rich though. Maybe you don’t have a site yet, maybe yours is just OK. Either way, you know how important it is to have a stand-out website to pull in your customers. But as important as it is to have a great website, it’s easy to browse around, see all the online Haves and the Have Nots, and think you don’t have the cash to have a site as great as your company.

Earthwarm Geothermal's Website After Its Makeover

Earthwarm Geothermal's Website After Its Makeover.

Looking great doesn’t mean going broke. You just have to find a professional who is as passionate about quality and as honest about pricing as you are.  That’s where I come in.  I can give you a professional, confidence-inspiring website that will turn page-views into handshakes.

See For Yourself. To the left is a picture of Earthwarm’s new site. Visit it here. Then, click the thumbnail images below to see screenshots from his old site. If you like what you see and think I can help make over your own website, contact me here. Thanks for your time, I hope to hear from you soon.

-Aaron Grote

Screenshots of Earthwarm’s old website.  Click the thumbnails to view full size images.

About Page Before MakeoverMain Sales Page Before Makeover

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Facebook: “Here’s Your New Page!” (Some Assembly Required)

Via DoVoCo — Social and Interactive Web Marketing
Facebook Did Not Change Pages. It Replaced Them.
That’s how big these changes will be for people managing Facebook Pages.  Change is scary, but don’t panic quite yet.  Wait at least 90 seconds. That is all the longer I think it will take for you to see that these changes will help you turn your pages into what you have always wanted them to be.

You’re in the drivers seat now.  According to Facebook, these changes are all designed to make it easier to “express your identity and tell your unique story.”  Facebook outlines the rollout in the Product Guide it released for its new Facebook Pages.  Where as previously, brands trying to convey a consistent message may have felt like they were fighting a disconnected series profile pictures, landing pages, and wild-west, forum-like Walls, the new Pages allow you to present a more cohesive, curated presence to the world.

Now, tell your story. Put yourself in the role of author, curator, and content creator. No longer must you–or can you, for that matter–act like a shepherd trying to guide your fans in the general direction of your goal, or the guy in the tire costume waiving people into the auto shop for a $29 oil change. These changes allow you to tell your story, but force you to be the one writing it. That will take work, but Facebook has given you some effective new tools to do it with. Below, I will outline a few of the most important ones, and give you some best practices as you start your career as a curator.

1) Meet Your New Timeline!

Timeline for Pages - Coca Cola

Yes, just like Facebook’s recent Profile changes, the new Pages do away with the old “Walls” in favor of a Timeline.  This switch to a timeline is the primary factor in allowing you to take control of your image and your story.  This is where using thought-out, engaging, and eye-catching content will make the difference between brands that capture the hearts and imaginations of their audience and brands that, well… don’t.  Here are some of the features that your Page’s new Timeline has to help:

Use of Milestones and Pinned Posts

    • Pinned Posts: If you have managed an active Facebook Page or use your Page to keep fans and customers informed, at some point you have probably wished you could make a post “stick” to the top of the Wall.  Now you can.  A post can be “pinned” to the top of your Timeline for up to seven days.  This is a key feature to take advantage of.  This will be the primary place on your Page to highlight important messages, encourage fans to visit your promotions or custom tabs, and include calls to action.
    • Milestones: Facebook is really pushing the “story” angle of the Timeline for Pages.  Hence, one of the post-types now available to you is the “Milestone”.  According to Facebook, Milestones should be used to “define your key moments over time.”  Because Facebook feels that these are key parts of your “story”, Milestones will be favored by Facebook’s EdgeRank algorithm, which decides what stories appear in your fan’s News Feeds and for how long.  That makes these very valuable posts.
    • Highlight Stories: Every story on your Timeline has a selector tool in the top right corner.  Stories that you want to stand out visually can be “starred”, and made to stretch across the width of the Timeline.  This is another big tool to take advantage of in creating the narrative of your brand’s story.
    • Fan Engagement:  Your Wall used to be the Wild West.  Fans (which is using the word politely, at times) could post anything they wanted, and it would be as visually important as the most carefully-crafted content you created.  The new Pages shifts that balance to be more in your favor.  Fans can still comment on your Page, but the new Pages concentrate interactions in two new sections contained in the top right of your Timeline (Interactions by Friends, and “Recent Posts By Others”).  Some have been saying that this will kill fan engagement with Pages as we know it, but I feel quite the opposite.  There are a lot of people out there who may want to compliment or thank a business or ask a question, but hesitate to do it on “center stage” as Wall-posts are now presented.  I think this change will bring about a lot more genuine and meaningful fan interactions, and cut down on grandstanding.  Also, Page administrators have the option to set their favorite posts by others to “Allow on Timeline”, which allows Pages to more easily curate how fan’s affect the brand’s image.  One area of the Timeline that administrators have no control over is the “Friends’ Activity” area uniquely displayed to visitors.  Sure, you may have chosen not to include that vitriolic post on your Timeline, but that person’s friends may still see it if they visit your page.

2) Create Your Visual Brand!

With the old Pages, brands had very little control over the visual presentation of their Pages.  Really, it was limited to just a Profile Picture.  There was very little room to express who you are and what makes you stand out from the crowd.  For this reason, things like custom landing tabs became an almost universal feature for brands trying to express themselves.  The new Pages make it much easier to visually define yourself.

Whatever you think of the politics, this Cover Photo sure sends a message.

  • Cover Photo (851 x 315 pixels):  Just like the new Timeline Profiles, Pages get to have a Cover Photo at the top.  Many Pages have already been using custom landing tabs to provide first time visitors with a sense of who they are and what they do.  Think of your Cover Photo as the new place to do that.  In fact, Facebook has not left you with much of a choice in that area, as landing tabs have gotten the ax.  All visitors are now unconditionally directed to a Page’s Timeline view.  Facebook has also placed strict limits on what cannot be included in Cover Photos:
    • Price or purchase information.  Examples include discounts or purchasing instructions.
    • Contact information.  No websites, phone numbers, or addresses.
    • References to Facebook features.  Don’t say “Like Us”, or put an arrow to the Like or Share buttons.
    • Calls to action.  No sales pitches or promotional copy.
    • These are strict limits, but are there to encourage Page Managers to use the space available to help give visitors an idea of who you are, what you stand for, and what makes you stand out.
  • Profile Picture (180 x 180 / 32 x 32 pixels): This is the picture we are all familiar with, which is used all over Facebook to identify your Page.  It should be quickly and easily identifiable as being your brand’s visual identity.

3) Pick Your Apps!

You used to be able to have quite a bit of space to list out all the different apps that your viewers could pick from, though having more than 6 tended to make viewers tune out.  The new Pages limit that number to four, but allow you a much larger space to catch your viewer’s eye.  Again, a tab can no longer be a default landing page, so your icons will have to be eye-catching and intriguing to get much traffic.

4) Messages!

Facebook users can now send private messages to Pages, and Pages can privately respond to those messages.

Wow.  This is huge.  So huge that I will need another post just to address this, but I can’t let you go without at least a fundamental understanding of this major change.

This could very well change the face of customer service.  Imagine getting a private message from a customer with a problem.  You know all the information that person has made public, and if your website’s login system uses Facebook Connect, you can also pull up the full purchase/interaction history of that person on your site.  This is a game changer, so for now I’ll leave it at that and let your imagination run wild.  Stay tuned for more on the subject though.

Whew!  That’s a lot of information.  Quite enough for now, as a matter of fact.  There is more to the changes, and you can find Facebook’s full breakdown here, but for now, focus on creating that visually stunning representation of your brand, and on creating and curating your brand’s “story”.  Stay tuned for more info on the “back end” changes Facebook made, and if you have any questions feel free to send them my way on DoVoCo’s Facebook Page (I’m still setting up my own Timeline) or email aaron@dovoco.com.  And hey, now that you’re in the drivers seat, enjoy the ride.

 
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Posted by on March 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Proud To Accept Appointments To The Executive Board and Building, Finance, & Accounting Board At The North Branch American Legion

The American Legion is one of the United States’ leading charitable organizations, and local Posts throughout the country work hard to serve their communities as a whole, as well as the veterans that live in them.  I have proudly served as a part of the American Legion Post 85 in North Branch, Minnesota and am now proud to accept appointments to the Executive Board and the Building, Finance, and Accounting Boards.

The Executive Board works to steer the fundraising and charitable efforts of one of the areas largest and most active charitable organizations.  Responsibilities include:

  • Maximize Post income through the Club Room Bar, the Hall and Event Center, charitable gaming operations, and other fundraising efforts.
  • Guide donations and charitable efforts to achieve the largest possible benefit to the community as a whole and the veterans who live in it.

The Building, Finance, & Accounting (BF&A) Board works to:

  • Review and audit revenues and expenditures from the Club Room Bar and the Hall and Event Center.
  • Use that information to make strategic business decisions to maximize financial benefits to the Post.
  • In addition to those duties, I have accepted the responsibility of auditing the operation, finances, and reporting of the Post’s large charitable gaming operations.

I will also continue to guide the Post’s social media and web presence.

For more information on the American Legion and the many ways it helps our nation and its Veterans, please visit their website and find out how easy it is to help achieve their goals.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

True Prediction: Social Search is Here

News from DoVoCo.

Monday, Bing announced a major change to the way people will search online. This video explains it well. The long and the short of it is this: You now have the option to make your searches more personalized and relevant to what matters to you. How does it work? Here’s more.

Back in February, I wrote an article titled “The Future of Search is Social”, trying to convince business owners to skate to where the puck will be by embracing social media because “soon your presence in search results will depend on it.” Today, that is what happened.

Personalized, Relevant Search Results

What Bing unveiled is what they call “a new way to experience search,” that gives searchers personalized search results influenced by input from their friends’ Likes and opinions. The social platform that enables these personalized results is Facebook, and Bing has also made it easy to opt in or out of both sharing and receiving information in this new structure.

According to Bing, the research inspiring these changes told them that 90% of people look for advice from friends and family when they make decisions, and that searchers will delay making a decision on the information they found until they consult someone they trust. Bing hopes that their new social tools will eliminate or shorten that decision delay.

How It Works

What you will see if you choose to make your searches personalized are two main additions. The first are “Likes” from your own friends below the listing for a particular result. These are designed to show you what is popular among the people you know. There are some searches where there will not be any social input for the listed results. For example, let’s say that you are the first person you know to shop for a Hang Glider. In these situations Bing will let you tap what they call the “collective IQ of the Web” by displaying how many people like a result universally.

Bing is also introducing a new tool, the Bing Bar, to enable anybody to like a particular product or website. This allows anybody, even those who do not use Facebook, to add their input to the value of something.

The last major change Bing’s announcement brings to search is a conversational functionality. You can now use Facebook’s communication abilities within your search, allowing you to have a conversation with an individual friend who’s opinion you value, or to post a question to your wall and crowdsource your decision.

What Does This Mean For Companies?

While I have outlined what this will mean for searchers trying to find information, what does this announcement mean for businesses, organizations, or people trying to be found? Overall, this has the potential to be good news. Traditional search has relied on facts and data that are sometimes very disconnected from the things that make results relevant or valuable to an individual searcher. These have included keywords, outside links to the site, and recently, location. While these are all important and will still be used in Bing, people can now harness these tools to find business based on how good their product or service is via the happiness of their customers.

What this means for most businesses is that a whole new door is open to you, which will give you a greater opportunity to appear as one of the important top 10 search results. In the past, it took serious time and money to appear on the first page of many keyword searches. These were resources and techniques that most small businesses simply did not have. Now, a major factor in search results is how you treat, engage, and connect with your customers, which is where many of those same small businesses stand out from the crowd.

As this technology matures and comes to dominate much of the online search world, we will see more changes, and better understand their implications. For now though, one thing is relatively certain: If you’re not engaging your customers socially now, you are missing out on a major opportunity to build your visibility and your business.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

From Dolce Voce Consulting

Well, I just finished a Search Engine Optimization job for Earthwarm Inc. Geothermal Systems. This was a good company with a good product and service, and even had a website, but it did not show up on any search results for industry keywords unless the search actually included the name of the company. Of course, most undecided customers don’t go to Google already searching for names of companies, they search for keywords, and “shoppers” often include a geographic element like the name of the city they live in. Earthwarm Inc. now shows up as the number 1 “local” result when you search for “geothermal” and their hometown of Chisago City, MN. It also has the first 8 of 10 spots in the normal “organic” results! (And one of the other two is the company’s supplier’s “Dealers” page, so I could even count that I suppose.)

The beautiful thing about how I do things though, is that Earthwarm now also shows up in keyword searches for cities in the surrounding area, not just in the hometown. In fact, Earthwarm is in the top 5 results for 10 surrounding cities (and the top 3 for 9 of those)! Here’s an example.

This is why I love providing this service. Why pay good money to build and host a website if people can’t find it, when this costs peanuts compared to the cost of your website or the yellow pages? If you find yourself in the same boat, contact me to find out how easy and inexpensive results like this can be.

 
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Posted by on November 22, 2010 in Uncategorized